Top Ten Free Agents

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  • Kevin Pelton, | Feb. 2, 2005
    With the free agent market open for teams to sign players to contracts as of Tuesday (though none has yet been signed), takes a look at the top ten free agents on the market who played in the WNBA last season, Storm players excluded for reasons of objectivity. Roles and needs mean that any team's list, including the Storm's, will probably be quite different from this group, but here's one view of the top players available (in alphabetical order):

    Svetlana Abrosimova, Minnesota (restricted) - After recovering from a back injury and playing off her rust, Abrosimova was a productive player down the stretch. In 11 starts, she averaged 10.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.9 steals, numbers near or above her career averages. Improved three-point shooting (she shot 13-for-31 from downtown, 41.9%, in September) could make Abrosimova a more efficient player.

    Helen Darling, Minnesota (restricted) - Plus-minus data and analysis of the Lynx's team stats confirm Darling's defensive prowess. Because she's a non-scorer, Darling needs to be in the right situation. San Antonio, which needs defense and has plenty of scorers and employs Darling's coach in Cleveland, Dan Hughes, would seem to be an interesting fit. Darling is a good passer in addition to her defense, though she was plagued by turnovers last season.

    Adrienne Goodson, San Antonio (unrestricted) - At age 38, Goodson is nearing the end of the line on a stellar career, but she demonstrated in 2004 that she's still got some game left. After struggling in 2003, Goodson was much improved last year, boosting her shooting percentage to 44.8% (above her career WNBA mark of 44.0%) and ranking in the WNBA's top ten with 6.9 rebounds per game. Goodson's 14.9% rebound percentage led all WNBA small forwards last season. Goodson might be forced out of San Antonio by a youth movement and the desire for more shooting from the small forward position, but she can help a contender in the short term. I had Goodson rated as the most valuable non-Storm free agent last season.

    Tynesha Lewis, Charlotte (restricted) - If the WNBA had an equivalent to the Sixth Man Award, Lewis would have been a strong candidate last season. She ranked third amongst players who started less than half their team's games in scoring average (7.2 ppg) and averaged 15.9 points per 40 minutes, better than the marks of noted scorers Marie Ferdinand (15.8) and Allison Feaster (14.8). A fine outside shooter who has hit 41.8% of her threes throughout her career, Lewis improved at creating her own shot last season, making her more valuable. Storm fans don't need to be convinced of what Lewis can do after she scored a career-high 19 points on 6-for-8 shooting (2-for-2 from three, 5-for-5 from the line) in the Sting's win in Charlotte on July 8.

    Murriel Page, Washington (unrestricted) - Page is a quality role player who has started 188 games in her seven years with the Mystics while playing all three frontcourt positions. At a lithe 6-2, Page can be overmatched at center, where she saw much of her action in 2003, but is not too slow to defend on the wings. She did a good job against the Storm's Lauren Jackson this season in Washington. Page rarely turns the ball over and is a career 48.0% shooter from the field (46.3% last year).

    Wendy Palmer, Connecticut (unrestricted) - Palmer did indeed win a WNBA award, sharing Most Improved Player honors with Indiana's Kelly Miller. An All-Star in 2000 while in Detroit, Palmer-Daniel admittedly let her game slip after being traded to Orlando during the middle of the 2002 season and had nearly fallen off the map by the start of last year. But she won the starting power forward job in Connecticut and had a solid season, averaging 9.0 points and 5.5 rebounds. Palmer had shoulder surgery after suffering an injury against the Storm during the WNBA Finals, but should be back for next season. The Sun would like to move All-Star center Taj McWilliams-Franklin to power forward next season, so Palmer is very available and could help several teams.

    Kristen Rasmussen, Indiana (restricted) - Unselected in the 2003 WNBA Dispersal Draft after three seasons in Miami, Rasmussen has given the Fever a couple of solid campaigns. Rasmussen is not a flashy player, but she's able to play either forward position off the bench at 6-2 and has three-point range (37.0% last season). As a role player on a team with stars, Rasmussen is very valuable - particularly if she's shooting around the 47.0% she shot from the field in 2003 or the 51.5% mark of 2002 instead of last year's 41.5% shooting.

    Kelly Schumacher, Indiana (restricted) - More playing time meant career highs in scoring and rebounding for Schumacher in 2004. She broke into the starting lineup near the end of the season and averaged 10.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks as a starter during the month of September. Schumacher has always been a high-percentage shooter and a good shot-blocker, though she was a bit weak on the boards last season, pulling down 11.5% of available rebounds (less than Storm shooting guard Betty Lennox). Schumacher is still a decent option as a starting center and a fine backup.

    Tangela Smith, Sacramento (unrestricted) - Considered the biggest name free agent on the market, Smith is one of just 11 players in WNBA history with at least 2,500 points and 1,000 rebounds. At 28 on April Fool's Day, she's one of the few who's still in the prime of her career. Smith's per-game averages have declined the last three seasons as she's gone from a high of 33.2 minutes per game in 2002 to 26.7 mpg last year because of Monarchs Coach John Whisenant's large rotations. She still remains a quality player who teams will line up to try to pry away from cap-squeezed Sacramento.

    DeMya Walker, Sacramento (restricted) - Though the Monarchs other starting forward is a restricted free agent, she's sure to be a hot commodity as teams anticipate Sacramento being unable to match an offer made to her. Walker isn't really coming off of a great season. Her 41.6% shooting was her lowest mark since her rookie season, and her decline from 143 free-throw attempts in 740 minutes to 103 in 884 (a 40% decline in free-throw attempts per minute) indicates Walker was playing more on the perimeter. Walker's ability to get to the line and take advantage of small defenders makes her a valuable offensive player, but she occasionally struggles to defend quick small forwards on the perimeter.

    Honorable Mentions

  • Jessie Hicks, San Antonio (unrestricted) - Did a solid job last season splitting time with Margo Dydek in the middle for the Silver Stars and makes a nice veteran reserve post.
  • Kedra Holland-Corn, Houston (unrestricted) - Has struggled with her shot two of the last three years, but was the WNBA's top reserve in Detroit in-between and might return to the Shock.
  • Tamicha Jackson, Washington (restricted) - One of the WNBA's quickest players, Jackson is not a true point guard and is probably best deployed as a reserve.
  • Charlotte Smith-Taylor, Charlotte (unrestricted) - Shot a career-high 48.1% from the field last season after entering the season a career 36.5% shooter; needless to say, she's unlikely to be that accurate again but is still valuable for her athleticism on defense.
  • Andrea Stinson, Charlotte (unrestricted) - Rumors of the demise of Stinson, who has started all 254 games in Sting franchise history, have been exaggerated; she's still a fine rebounder for a guard and can score, but is on the downside of her career.